The Christian Rock group, SWEET CRYSTAL, has remained in existence for an impressive 40 years and its core trio of Marq Andrew Speck (lead vocals, keyboards), Bill Blatter (guitar, vocals) and Steve Wieser (drums) has remained together and intact for the entirety of that time too.
SWEET CRYSTAL is also a staggering thirteen-time Detroit Music Award winner. Their latest release “Quad” sees the band collaborating with award-winning mixer/engineer, Chuck Alkazian (Christina Aguilera, R Kelly, Mitch Ryder, Pop Evil) and Pearl Sound Studios, Canton, MI. “Quad” also features performances by special guest vocalists Amy Susan Heard and David Perez.
“We’ve really upped our sonic onslaught with QUAD,” says founding member Marq Andrew Speck. “There are songs here about desperation and redemption, asking questions of faith and finding real answers for our lives as well as some mighty sweet instrumentals.”
To put it simply, “Quad” has everything that any fan of SWEET CRYSTAL would expect, brings them to a more mature level and also takes their music a step further. So if you liked their defining previous work, you sure are going to love this no matter what. And even if you are less than a fan of their previous work, or do not know it at all, I am pretty confident that you will at least respect and appreciate the work and effort put into this Christian progressive-rock album.
From start to the end every song feels different and carries its own personality. You may not necessarily perceive this with one spin of all the tracks, but most people will get this at the second or at the most, third listening. The main reason for this is the fact that no song feels formulaic.
Right from the very start of “Fanfare”, you can tell that SWEET CRYSTAL really want to make this album epic. But, it’s really when we get to the next track “Foot of the Cross” where we start to hear the band’s driving creativity, by combining hard hitting rhythms and rock symphonics.
Individually they are great musicians, collectively an overwhelmingly great sounding band. There is no way around it; these guys produce music that is absolutely addictive. As skilled craftsman, they are virtually in a league of their own. And nowhere is this more evident than on “Some People May Ask” which elevates the album to a spectacular level of proficiency and beauty.
This song has the dramatic and dynamic elements of a perfect rock opera. In places it reminded me of something from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, and at others like an extract off the legendary ‘Tommy’ album by The Who. Either way, for me, it’s the absolute highlight of a stellar album, followed closely by the album closer, “Him Alone”.
There is so much to love about “Quad”. First of all you have three masters yet nothing is overplayed and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The songs are rock-solid, mostly upbeat with hooks galore. The vocals are rich and everything is layered and textured nicely. This album reminds me of the great rock bands of the 70’s and 80’s; beautiful chord progressions and tempo changes, big harmonies and creative arrangements – a wonderful balance of instrumentation and song styles.
One of the things I love about SWEET CRYSTAL is the breadth and depth of the sonic landscape they craft. Listening to this album, took me to another place. So much so, I had totally forgotten that this was a Christian Rock album until it ended. That’s what separates SWEET CRYSTAL from lesser talents!